Posted on Jun 23, 2006

Julie and Terry Martin had all the trappings of corporate success – big titles and salaries, prestige and perks – at the height of the e-commerce boom. Then three years ago, after more than two decades, the Class of '81 computer engineers walked away from it all.

Make that kayaked away.

Instead of developing databases, the Martins, who met at Union, are designing their own version of a dream come true as kayakers on Cape Cod.

Julie is store manager and head of the outdoor adventure program for Goose Hummock Paddle Shop in Orleans, Mass. Terry is a boat mechanic for the company's marina. Both teach kayaking and lead guided paddling trips.

“I was 40 the first time I got in a kayak,” said Julie, 46, a Niskayuna, N.Y., native. “I made a very odd career change late in life, and it's awesome. Terry and I had semi-illustrious careers for GE, Unisys, Compaq, Sun Microsystems; we lived in London. You make a lot of money, but sometimes it's hard to enjoy it. The bosses, the customers – whoever the ‘they' is at the moment – have no qualms about calling you at two in the morning.

“My first year out was hard; my second year, I bagged all my suits; the third year, well, I can't imagine going back.”

“I'll do anything to stay close to water,” agrees Terry, 46, of Summit, N.J. “We were working on innovative, exciting projects for original equipment manufacturers, but those jobs are 24/7. You live in airports.”

In 1999, the Martins took a leave of absence. They skied out west, sunned on the Kona Coast, and caught the kayaking bug in the San Juan Islands in Washington state.

When the Y2K frenzy hit, they succumbed to “tons of pressure” to return to their jobs with Sun Microsystems in the World Trade Center.

“Then, in 2001, they blew up the World Trade Center,” Julie said. “We should have been there, but we'd gone back to the islands for some kayaking. We flew into the city the morning of Sept. 11 and were preparing to relocate to Boston that day. We watched the smoke in our rear view mirror… In Boston, where I was overseeing the Northeast Division, it was too weird. My New York employees were traumatized. All of our systems and our intellectual property were gone. I didn't have the energy to start over.”

Said Terry: “We chewed through the corporate leash, this time for real.”

The Martins now make their home in a rambling hillside ranch in South Orleans. Both are paddling-certified by the British Canoe Union.

“I hope to have my own paddling business one day,” Julie said. “My dad, a surgeon, asked me, ‘Aren't you wasting your education?' I said, ‘No, Dad, just the opposite; my education gave me all the smarts, the creative thinking, I need, to do this.'

“At Union, I learned how to think for myself and not be afraid of what's out there.”